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7 Portfolio Tricks That Will Land You A Job

7 Portfolio Tricks That Will Land You A Job

    Layoffs. Downsizing. Transitions. It’s a scary time to be out in the job market. If you’re hunting for a job, you’ve probably been handing out resumes like crazy. The problem is that, when you really look at a resume, every single one is the same. They’re all on the same size of paper, easily shuffled into a stack, just the way human resource managers like them.

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    There’s just not a lot you can do to stand out with a resume: hiring managers have no qualms about tossing oddly-sized resumes, funny-smelling CVs and lengthy explanations about where you’ve been lately. No hard feelings about it — I did a stint in HR and I would do anything to get through that never-ending stack of resumes, even if it meant denying someone the opportunity for a job just because they had sprayed perfume on their resume.

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    There is a way to stand out without irritating the hiring manager, though: a portfolio. I mentioned fairly recently that a portfolio can go a long way in convincing a prospective employer, and that portfolios aren’t just for art students. You can have a portfolio in any career — if you paint houses, you can take photos of the work you’ve done. If you’re a software developer, you can take screenshots of your applications. No matter your field, though, there are a few ways to make your portfolio shine.

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    1. Put your portfolio online. If you email your portfolio as an attachment, no hiring manager will open it for fear of viruses. If you drop off a physical portfolio, every hiring manager will cringe at the thought of going through more paperwork. But if you simply email a link, you’ve actually got a chance of getting someone in human resources to click on it — after all, it’s just a link. It won’t take any time at all to click on it, and what’s the worst that could happen? So take the time to scan everything in. It’s worth your while.
    2. Don’t require any downloads. Don’t include PDFs, Word files or anything else that a prospective employer has to download and open. That goes double for executable files — apologies to all the fantastic developers out there, but employers would rather look at pretty screenshots than try to figure out the software you created. This may mean that you will need to take the time to ‘improve’ a project that you did quite awhile again: maybe you’ll need to add some HTML to a written document.
    3. Organize your portfolio. You don’t need to alphabetize your projects or anything like that, but it should be easy for prospective employers to figure out what to click. That means no fancy flash, no unlabelled links. As a quick litmus test, try sitting Grandma down in front of your portfolio / website. If she can’t figure out where to click, it’s guaranteed that there is an HR manager out there who will be equally lost.
    4. Add context. Write labels and descriptions for the items you’re including in your portfolio. A memo that solved a crisis at your last job may not impress a prospective employer if they don’t recognize the effect it had. Descriptions are also an opportunity to toot your own horn — you can talk about the problems you encountered and the skills you used. No matter how polished the items in your portfolio, though, your descriptions should be equally polished. Consider them a writing sample and an opportunity to show off those great communication skills that every employer requires.
    5. Focus your portfolio. Even if you’re a salesman / graphic designer / clog dancer, your portfolio doesn’t need to reflect that. Instead, you should focus on the job you’re actually going for. You can create separate portfolios for each of your career paths, but focus on what you really want to do next, not what you’ve done in the past.
    6. Go for the multimedia. Not all job skills can be expressed in writing or through photographs. Out to prove your sales skills? Maybe a few graphs showing how you improved sales are your best bet. Looking for a career as a mascot? A video of you working the crowd is bound to impress more than a picture of you standing around in costume. It’s your portfolio: you set the rules on what sort of media you want to include.
    7. Get your own domain name — or not. If you’re planning to maintain your portfolio in the long run (which can be a good thing even if you’re planning to stay with your new job for the long haul), sure, getting your own domain name is a good idea. But using one of the many sites that allow you to post samples of your work is also a good option. Say you’re an interior decorator. Your prospective boss won’t care if you can maintain a website. Focus on taking high quality photos of your work, and post them to Flickr. Your portfolio can be that easy. Just beware of user names that seem brilliant at 3 AM.

    As a rule, I try to limit my portfolio to projects I’ve actually completed at others’ requests. As awesome as I think some of my more personal work is, it hasn’t been through anything close to the critical process that something I’ve done for hire has. But if you’re looking for a few items to pad your portfolio, volunteer your services. Your work will still go through a critical process, but you don’t have to find a job just to improve your chances of getting another job.

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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